April 20, 2005 — The familiar color-coded pyramid chart illustrating the government's recommended daily food servings has been 86'd in favor of a dozen different guides geared to meet individual nutritional needs and lifestyles.
Why the makeover? Since the food pyramid first debuted in 1992, replacing the four squares, people have steadily grown fatter—with obesity creeping up at a younger age. In fact, the American Heart Association said this week that childhood obesity has become such a threat to public health that it could reverse the last half-century's gains in reducing cardiovascular disease and death.
Additionally, since 1992, knowledge about nutrition and food consumption patterns has grown significantly. It is now possible take a more personal approach to one's eating habits, incorporating even simple and modest improvements in nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle behavior to make a significant benefit to one's overall health.
One of the biggest goals the "My Pyramid" set-up aims to achieve is helping people control their portion sizes. The old pyramid explained its advice in "serving" sizes, but the new guides switches to cups, ounces, and other household measures to try to make its advice more understandable.
Visually the new "My Pyramid" guides still have the familiar rainbow-colored bands representing different food groups, but they run vertically from the tip to the base rather than horizontally, as they did in the old version.
Other things that are now emphasized in the My Pyramid set-up:
The new guides are based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January. These Guidelines provide advice for people two years of age and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce the risk or major chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
The USDA provides the following tips for parents on ways they can help to meet these new food guidelines:
Not everyone thinks the new "My Pyramid" guides are a success. The nutrition policy director for the nonprofit group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Margo G. Wootan, said in a statement that by making "one size doesn't fit all" the mantra, and by replacing one pyramid with 12, the government has made its advice more complicated than it needs to be. Wootan thinks there are simple key principles about healthy eating that truly do work for all Americans, and those could have been represented on one symbol.
What do you think of the new guidelines? Do you find the overhaul simple or confusing? Are you worried about the childhood obesity epidemic? Share your thoughts on our message board below: